Fernie from the air. File photo

Future of Fernie tourism on the table

Tourism partners launching master plan which will guide future growth of the $100M/year industry

Fernie tourism partners are preparing to launch a master plan that will guide future growth of the $100 million-a-year industry.

Residents will have a chance to provide input on the document, which will be informed by the community and developed by a group with a broad cross-section of interests related to tourism.

The Tourism Master Plan Project will be launched at an open house in Fernie next week, where anyone with an interest in tourism can learn about the initiative and meet the task force and consultant.

Tourism Fernie Executive Officer Jikke Gyorki said while other plans, such as the Official Community Plan, included elements of tourism, the master plan would be the first of its kind.

“A dedicated and collaborative vision and plan for the future of tourism in Fernie is an important step to ensure its success and sustainability,” she said.

Tourism has been part of the Fernie economy since 1921 with the formation of the Southeastern BC and Southern Alberta Tourism Association, and local commercial photographer Joseph Frederick Spalding’s role in that.

“Visitors back then came for outdoor pursuits and visiting friends and family, much like today,” said Gyorki.

Heiko Socher was another pioneer who transformed his passion for skiing and hiking into iconic visitor experiences, trails and destinations.

Gyorki said Socher’s development of Snow Valley, now Fernie Alpine Resort, propelled Fernie into the global spotlight for powder destinations.

“When Resorts of the Canadian Rockies bought the ski area from Heiko, expansion was quick and significant throughout the ski area but also with on-mountain accommodations like Fernie Lodging Company,” she said.

“Iconic businesses such as Island Lake Lodge and Fernie Wilderness Adventures, both having operated for over 25 years, have also laid the foundation for today’s successful tourism sector.”

While Fernie has traditionally been a winter destination, summer visitation has steadily increased over the past five to seven years, according to Gyorki.

Today, the vast amount of “things to do” and growing awareness brings more than 300,000 visitors to Fernie year-round, with accommodation revenues nearly doubling since 2000 (169 per cent).

Development of the tourism master plan is being led by a task force consisting of representatives from Tourism Fernie, the City of Fernie, Fernie Chamber of Commerce and local tourism, and related businesses and organizations.

Gyorki said the primary avenue for the community to provide input on the master plan will be through surveys.

Focus group sessions and interviews will also take place with a variety of organizations, interest groups, businesses and government.

“It will provide an opportunity for business, local government, cultural and recreational organizations, other community-based groups and community members to identify a tourism vision that supports broad community outcomes; understand tourism resources, capacities and potential; capitalize on existing and emerging tourism opportunities; address sustainability issues; and set the future stage for long-term success and viability,” she said.

The plan will be finalized by April 2019 with regular updates to be provided via Tourismplanfernie.com.

The open house and project launch will be held at the Fernie Seniors Centre on Tuesday, September 18 from 4-6 p.m.

No RSVP is required and anyone is welcome to attend.

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